A reading of the play “8,” which focuses on pro-marriage equality in relation to California’s Proposition 8, is coming to LMU’s campus tomorrow. The Loyolan unanimously endorses the play’s right to be on LMU’s campus.
However, before you react to our seeming opposition with the University’s Catholic and Jesuit roots, let us take a moment to clarify a very important point that often seems to be missing from debates on this issue: our endorsement is of the opportunity for open discourse on a popular social issue. Our thoughts on marriage equality are not relevant to this discussion.
This distinction – one that President David W. Burcham has focused his response to the criticism on – is imperative. According to Burcham, most of the feedback he and the University have received has been critical, and even includes voices beyond the bluff.
“I’ve gotten emails from folks around the country that are upset,” Burcham said. “I’ve got emails from several, not a large number, but several of our alums that are upset.”
The planned presentation of the pro-marriage equality play has inspired conversation about whether or not the play should continue as planned, from a post on The Cardinal Newman Society’s blog to a debate in the pages of this week's print edition.
Despite the backlash, the University and Burcham are standing firm, supporting the play’s presentation not despite LMU’s Jesuit roots, but because of them. “[S]ome jump to the conclusion because certain unpopular speech occurs on our campus that somehow, the fact that this is occurring on our campus signifies that the University endorses it, and that’s just not the case,” Burcham said. “What we endorse, what I endorse, is open, intelligent, respectful discourse. And that’s exactly what we’re going to have with this play.”
As the University prepares to kick off Zero Tolerance Week, the LMU community must remember that all voices deserve to be heard, even if they don’t represent the same viewpoint as the Catholic Church. The Jesuits themselves emphasize the idea of teaching how to think, not what to think. Not only that, but as Burcham made clear, to silence such voices would be against the University’s mission.
“Our tradition is we don’t shy away from controversial subjects, and if civil and principle-based discussion can’t occur here, on a university campus, about these kinds of subjects, where’s it going to occur?” Burcham asked. “This is our role, this is a university’s role.”
The best way to fully embody this role is for participation from across campus and from all sides of the issue. Students should attend the play with an open mind and a willingness to contribute to the talk back session at the end of the production. Only through truly hearing others’ opinions can we hope to best understand controversial issues.